What is an interior stylist?

What is a stylist? I was struck this week by a throwaway comment by interior designer Kelly Hoppen on an episode of the Great British Interior Design Challenge (BBC Two) where she said that one of the contestants (who was a photographer) was a good designer and not ‘just’ a stylist. I think that the term interior stylist can be a confusing one so I thought it might be helpful to outline what I think an interior stylist does.

A stylist’s CV

Interior stylists in my experience come from many different backgrounds from office work through to textile, art, product design and even economics degrees. I would also suggest that they get better with age and life experience too. There is so much to learn not only about design but also about client meetings and how to run a big team (including set decorators – who are, by the way, often highly trained ex art school professionals).

The skill sets are blurred, as many have photographic and art directing abilities as well as craft and design talents. Most have to be good ‘designers’ to put a look together and will often be making and designing props and soft furnishings. A stylist’s job is to be a sponge to absorb and reflect many different styles and trends. What drives all stylists is a passion for composition and decorative design as well as working with lots of lovely stuff!

Colonial style chest of drawer set
Styling: Charis White, photography: Catherine Gratwicke

Editorial styling

A stylist’s work on national magazines and newspapers for instance includes coming up with an idea for a style feature which might include some craft/design makes and all the ideas for a room scheme, everything to do with creating a room.

Arts and Crafts bedroom/Orla Kiely bedding
Styling: Charis White, photography: Carolyn Barber

Styling for retailers/commercial clients

When stylists are hired by retailers to work on catalogues, your knowledge of trends is called upon and mood boards with sketches need to be supplied. A stylist often has to choose the right location/interesting surfaces/background ideas for shots/the products/decorating ideas to show off the client’s products.

The address book for resources and the ability to produce to brief, budget and often very short time scales means that stylists are super organised and pretty awesome people!

(Sofa: Ochre; photo: Charis White)

Interior designers who swap to ‘the other side’

I have come across a few interior designers who swap to ‘the other side’ as they prefer the swifter timescales and variety of work you can work on (I cover anything from window displays, to books, styling fabric collections, style features for national magazines and newspapers, working with high street catalogues as well as projects for private clients). For the pace and creative energy, I wouldn’t have missed for the world some of the client and ‘absolutely fabulous’ editorial meetings I have had.

Celebrities are hiring interior stylists

Interestingly, a few high-profile celebrities such as George Clooney (for his home in Sonning, Berkshire) are hiring stylists rather than interior designers. Not only are they cheaper, but stylists develop a flair and often quirky style to their work which adds a very special dimension to a decorating scheme. Stylists are clever at mixing old with new and also know that you don’t need to spend huge amounts of money to create something really interesting. A stylist will prop everywhere from a pound shop and car boot sale to luxury fabric and wallpaper companies at Chelsea Harbour Design Centre.

Go stylists!

Charis White, interior stylist
Charis White – interior stylist/blogger

Many thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help you with any interior styling or writing project.

Charis x

One thought on “What is an interior stylist?

  1. I happened to be watching the latter half of that particular episode and that comment got me thinking and a musing on exactly what she meant so a very illuminating piece.

    Liked by 1 person

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